*(By Shevrin Jones, State Senator Florida District 34 – via MSNBC) — Black people often refer to the nine historically Black college fraternities and sororities in the United States as the Divine Nine. Whether it’s Vice President Kamala Harris, who is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha; the late Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights titan who belonged to Phi Beta Sigma; or the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who belonged, as I do, to Alpha Phi Alpha, these groups have shaped bright young students into future leaders since 1906, all while serving as highly recognizable public-service organizations throughout Black America.
It is deeply unsettling, then, that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Republican allies who serve in the Florida Legislature with me are pushing a bill that, at least as originally drafted, could have been used to erase the presence of my fraternity and the other members of the Divine Nine on our state’s public college campuses.
Overall, House Bill 999, with its explicit opposition to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and its opposition to course content and majors that address the history of oppression, seeks to take Florida and its campuses back to a time before women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color were considered respected, valued members of society.
This obviously isn’t the first time Florida Republicans have done something like this. Last year, DeSantis signed the so-called Stop Woke Act, which stops certain topics related to oppression from being discussed on college campuses. A federal judge blocked its enforcement in November, and on Thursday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied DeSantis’ right to begin enforcing the law.
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Last week, I was proud to see members of Florida A&M’s Black fraternities and sororities tap into their history of civic involvement and show up at a hearing and explain to my colleagues why House Bill 999 is so problematic. The governor has denied that such organizations would be affected.
And while I am grateful that Sen. Erin Grall, a Republican from Vero Beach who sponsored the senate’s version of the bill, heard those students’ concerns and removed language that could have inflicted great harm to these organizations, I still cannot in good conscience support this general effort to dismantle diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education.
This commentary by Shevrin Jones, State Senator Florida District 34 continues HERE on MSNBC.
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